As Anne Heche Remains in a Coma After Car Crash, Legal Expert Explains What Legal Jeopardy She May Face

While Anne Heche lies in a coma after a devastating car accident on Friday, Los Angeles authorities continue their investigation into the incident - and a legal expert is outlining various consequences the actress could face.
Legal analyst Emily D. Baker, a former Los Angeles County Assistant District Attorney, tells PEOPLE that while it's still unclear what caused Heche to fall into the home, the actress likely wouldn't be charged if "she had a medical emergency. "
On the other hand, Baker says, "If she drove into someone's house because something was going on and there was intent there, that's a whole different circumstance. Without knowing more, it's hard to judge. But on a standard DUI offense where no one is injured, there is generally no jail time.
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Heche, 55, was in a blue Mini Cooper on Friday that crashed into a home owned by Jennifer Durand and occupied by Durand's tenant Lynne Mishele. The residence caught fire, resulting in the Emmy winner suffering burns in the incident. She was then intubated at the hospital.
RELATED: Anne Heche was 'very pleasant' during pre-crash salon visit, owner says
MAMMOTH LAKES, CALIFORNIA - FEBRUARY 29: Anne Heche poses for a portrait at the 3rd Annual Mammoth Film Festival Portrait Studio - Saturday February 29, 2020 in Mammoth Lakes, California. (Photo by Michael Bezjian/Getty Images for Mammoth Media Institute); Anne Heche Photos from the accident site are taken by our own Marissa Charles
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Michael Bezjian/Getty for the Mammoth Media Institute; Marissa Karl
On Monday, a representative of Heche PEOPLE said the actress is currently in a coma in critical condition and has not regained consciousness.
"At this time, Anne is in critical condition," the spokesman said in a statement. “She has a significant lung injury that requires mechanical ventilation and burns that require surgical intervention. She is in a coma and has not regained consciousness since shortly after the accident.”
Many eyewitnesses reported Heche's driving as "reckless," which Baker says can mean many things during an ongoing investigation.
"The reckless driving can be individual charges depending on what the police [collect] as independent evidence ... you never know what a civilian will find reckless," she explains. “At this point, there is probably a suspicion of DUI. Driving 20 miles above the speed limit in a residential area may be considered reckless driving. It really just depends on what is reported to the police and where their investigation goes. but with something like that they will always consider [the driver could] have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol. They have to rule that out.”
When contacted by PEOPLE, the Los Angeles Police Department confirmed a warrant was issued Friday for Heche's blood draw test -- something Baker notes is standard protocol in similar cases.
"Warrants can be obtained very quickly at any time of the day or night," she says. "Because this is commonly done, it's not an unusual or slow process."
"It would have to be a search warrant, but given the two accidents and the ring camera footage, I think it would have been a simple search warrant," she adds.
RELATED: Authorities get warrant to test Anne Heche's blood but won't be in rush to arrest: legal expert
Anne Heche attends the 74th Annual Directors Guild of America Awards
LISA O'CONNOR/getty
During their investigation, authorities will "investigate the circumstances of both accidents and the witnesses and present them to the prosecutor," Baker said.
If Heche is found to have had drugs or alcohol in her system, Baker says the charges will depend largely on the actress' history of drink driving.
"I don't know Anne Heche's file, but assuming she doesn't have any other DUIs, it would probably just be first-time DUI, which generally doesn't involve jail time, especially since no one was hurt but her," she says. “With the property damage and stuff, could they put her on probation for a longer time than you would see with a typical DUI? Yes. Could they ask for more alcohol classes? Yes. Could their license be restricted for longer? Yes. But I wouldn't expect a prison sentence without more information."
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As for next legal steps, Baker said authorities could "take their time" with the investigation given the unique circumstances.
"Since she's in the hospital, I assume they'll take their time," she says. "Also because she's a public figure, they'll probably take a little more time and be in no rush to arrest her. And depending on how long she's in the hospital, she's not going anywhere."
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Whether or not the owners can sue Heche for loss of property, Baker says there are "a couple of options."
“The property owner would be first — the property owner has to pay for the tenant to stay somewhere while they fix the property,” she says. “So the owner of the property has to take care of fixing that property, although they would probably take care of the insurance first. And then the renter, if they've lost all their belongings inside, insurance is the first port of call for all this for pursuing someone for replacement costs."
John and Jennifer Durand, who own the destroyed home, have since launched GoFundMe to help Mishele cover the loss of "the place she loves" and most of her belongings.
Anne Heche
American actress

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